Local restrictions are to be introduced in northeast England following an increase in Covid cases. The measures include a 10pm curfew for bars and pubs and a ban on people mixing with others outside their household.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the new restrictions in a statement to the House of Commons this morning (September 17) after the government’s talks with North East councils and local MPs.
They will come into force from Friday in Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham.
The restrictions will include, residents being told not to socialise with people outside their household, table service only in bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants, and all bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes and other leisure and entertainment venues to close between 10pm and 5am
In a blunt warning, Mr Hancock told MPs: “Like many other countries around the world, we’re continuing to see a concerning rise in cases with 3,991 new cases recorded yesterday.
“And this week the number of patients in mechanical ventilator beds has risen above 100 for the first time since July.
“The battle against coronavirus is not over.”
The health secretary said there had been “concerning rates of infection” in parts of the North East.
“We agree with the local councils that we must follow the data and act and the data says that we must act now so that we can control the virus and keep people safe,” he added.
“And I know that the people of the North East will come together to beat this virus, as defeat it we must.”
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, earlier said his council had asked the government for “additional temporary restrictions” after becoming “very concerned about the exponential rise in the number of COVID-19 cases across the North East”.
“Our evidence from contact tracing tells us it’s happening broadly in three main areas; in bars and pubs, in people’s homes, and in grassroots sports,” he told Sky News presenter Kay Burley.
“So what we’ve done is try to get ahead of the curve and ask government for some additional temporary restrictions so that we can get on top of the virus in all of those areas.”
Explaining the reason for a 10pm curfew for bars, pubs and restaurants, Mr Forbes said: “One of the challenges has been groups of people meeting up in our towns and city centres very late at night and after a few drinks that means social distancing goes out the window.
“So we want to ensure that isn’t another opportunity for the virus to keep spreading.”
“I appreciate these are not easy measures and people have worked so hard to get businesses up and running again after the national lockdown – there might be some fear about the impact of these,” he said.
“But we are working with businesses and we want to ensure that all of our businesses who worked very hard to ensure they’re COVID-secure and COVID-safe continue to operate through this with some additional measures just to curb the spread of the virus where we know the spread is happening most prevalent.”
Liverpool is also on the brink of lockdown and may see pubs and restaurants switch to takeaways.
Latest figures for Liverpool show that the infection rate in the city per 100,000 people is 106.4 – and in just one week (7-13 September) there were 530 positive cases, and Mayor Joe Anderson said today he expects new restrictions to be brought in this week.